Cannibal killer Katherine Knight lives inside the fearsome Silverwater Women's Correctional Centre in western Sydney where she's known to other inmates as "The Nanna".

The white-haired lady with the benign smile and eyes twinkling behind owlish glasses is the perpetrator of one of the most diabolical murders in the nation's history.

Branded an evil monster, Knight left behind a crime scene so dreadful it repulsed and traumatised those experienced in the field, reports news.com.au.

In prison, however, the first woman killer to be given life without any possibility of parole is seen as a leader by the other "girls" - themselves convicted murderers, baby killers and drug dealers.

Advertisement

Sydney author James Phelps' new book on women in prison, Green Is The New Black provides a rare and incredible insight into how Knight spends her days.

In the 17 years since she was taken into custody, Knight has found religion, paints and knits and acts as a "Queen Bee" sorting out disputes among prisoners.

But the prison officers never take their eyes off her, she is not allowed near knives and she even told one of Phelps' informants that she can't have a cellmate in case she kills again.

Knight's dreadful crime took place on the evening of February 29, 2000 in a suburban house in tiny town of Aberdeen in the NSW Hunter Valley.

She was a 44-year-old mother of four children working her "dream job", slicing offal at the Aberdeen abattoir.

After several failed marriages and relationships, Knight had been dating a handsome local man, John Price.

But the relationship was floundering, partly because of Knight's rages which saw her assault Price on a number of occasions.

John Price took out an AVO against Katherine Knight on the day he was savagely murdered. Photo / News Corp Australia
John Price took out an AVO against Katherine Knight on the day he was savagely murdered. Photo / News Corp Australia

On the fateful day Price went to court to take out an Apprehended Violence Order, he nevertheless returned home and had sex with Knight.

Advertisement

While he was sleeping, Knight went to work, stabbing Price 37 times and then expertly flaying his body with her favourite knife.

She made a "skin suit" which she hung from a meat hook and then decapitated him and
boiled up his head on his kitchen stove with vegetables and gravy.

She set places with the names of Price's children.

Police found Knight comatose on the floor.

In the kitchen, they found baked potatoes and pumpkin in the oven and a still-warm pot with Price's head floating in it with cabbage and zucchini.

Supreme Court Justice Barry O'Keefe handed Knight a life sentence, with no chance of ever being released.

Advertisement

Phelps' compelling book Green Is The New Black paints a picture of the cannibal behind bars.

He spoke with prison officers who supervise Knight and with former Penthouse Pet model Victoria Schembri, who became Knight's prison confidante.

The following is an extract from Green is the New Black by James Phelps, Penguin $34.99

"A typical day for Knight, starts at 7am every morning when she wakes to go to one of the most tedious jobs in prison.

"She makes headphones," Schembri said. "That's her job.

"She's stuck in a factory every day, from 8am to 1pm, making headphones on a big, loud machine.'

Advertisement

Knight is said to be one of the best workers in the head-phone factory and commands the top wage.

"She gets through more work than anyone," Schembri said. "She enjoys her job and takes pride in what she does. Four guards flank her. They watch her every move and are with her every day."

After Knight finishes her day at the headphone factory, she eats lunch before retiring to her cell.

"Her cell is the same size as every other cell in the wing," Schembri said.

"It's a one-out [single person] corner cell at the end of the wing.

"She has a bed, clothes, and the centrepiece of her room is a big old table that she uses for making art. She also sits at that table to write letters."

Advertisement

Artist and hoarder

The typically cluttered female cell of a woman inmate in Silverwater Women's Correctional Centre. Photo / News Corp Australia
The typically cluttered female cell of a woman inmate in Silverwater Women's Correctional Centre. Photo / News Corp Australia

Schembri described Knight as a hoarder whose cell is full of knitting, knick-knacks and art.

"Her room is very cluttered," Schembri said. "She had s*** everywhere.

"She had been there for a long time, and it was like she'd kept everything she'd ever been given.

"Not many people ever got to go in her room. She keeps it very private.

"I was in there only once, to help her lift something she couldn't lift on her own.

"It was her private space. She crochets and has heaps of blankets and things she has made. "There's wool piled everywhere. Lots of knitted things.

Advertisement

"She has tried to make it as homely and warm as possible.

"She's going to be there until she dies, so she has made it her home, a place she feels comfortable in."

Knight is also a prolific prison artist. She has become a skilled painter and raises money for the prison by selling her works.

"She's an incredible artist," Schembri said.

"But she never signs anything she does - and never will. She doesn't want anyone making money off her name because she killed someone.

No friends visit

"She doesn't want some sick person buying her art because they think what she did was cool. "The thought of someone hanging something on their wall just because she is a killer repulses her.

Advertisement

"She's amazing with pencil, paint and also pottery. A lot of her pottery is on display in the foyer at Mulawa.

"She has allowed them to sell a lot of it to raise money for charity and the jail - without her signature, of course."

Knight has little left for her outside of prison. Her family and friends have abandoned her.
"I never saw her on the phone," Schembri said. "I think all her friends and family have wiped her. I don't think she has anyone on the outside.

"I would say she has zero contact with the outside. Everyone would be on the phone every day, speaking to people outside, but I never saw that with Katherine. It was quite sad."

'The nanna'

Abattoir worker Katherine Knight, in an undated photo, before she committed the most heinous single murder in Australia's history. Photo / News Corp Australia
Abattoir worker Katherine Knight, in an undated photo, before she committed the most heinous single murder in Australia's history. Photo / News Corp Australia

Inside Mulawa Max, Knight is known as "the Nanna". She is arguably the most popular inmate in the prison. She is also a peacemaker.

"We called her the Nanna," Schembri said. "She is a gentle soul and not a criminal to me. She is a mediator at Mulawa. She's someone who sorted out problems before they got serious. She would pull the girls in and try to get them to sort out whatever it was before it ended up with someone going into segro [segregation] or getting more time added to their sentence.

Advertisement

"She would stop girls stealing from each other, and stop girls from fighting. But she never did it by standing over anyone. She never raised her hands to anyone. She was just someone who everyone loved."

Knight is also the prison's event planner.

"She organises a big catch-up every Friday," Schembri said. "She organises all the food and makes sure that everyone in the wing is a part of it.

"She includes every single person, even those she doesn't really like. She does it to bring everyone together. It stops a lot of problems from happening."

Top boss

An inmate prepares a meal at Silverwater women's prison in an area with cooking facilities that would be prohibited for Katherine Knight. Photo / News Corp Australia
An inmate prepares a meal at Silverwater women's prison in an area with cooking facilities that would be prohibited for Katherine Knight. Photo / News Corp Australia

An active officer labelled Knight a prison "boss".

"She's the top boss of the jail," the officer said. "She takes no crap from anyone and absolutely gives it to the guards.

Advertisement

"If you come in to search her cell, she will stand in front of you with a smug face and scream at you.

"She will demand to watch you search the cell, and she will not leave the area. 'No, I'm f***in' staying here!' she'll scream.

"You have to use force to get rid of her, so we just leave her there and let her watch.

"It isn't worth the hassle. And every time you pick up something, she'll be like, 'What are you touching that for?'"

The officer described Knight's relationship with her fellow inmates.

"She is their confidante," the officer said. "They all go to her to talk and ask permission for whatever it is they want to do.

Advertisement

"She knows everything that goes on in the jail, and whatever she says goes."

The officer explained Knight is not your typical prison boss. She did not gain her position of authority by way of intimidation and violence.

"No, she has never raised her hands in prison," the officer said. "Not once. I think she has that level of respect because of her crime. Because she was so brutal. "She has a lot of respect in the inmate population, that's for sure. They simply do not f*** around with her, and that's a fact.

"Most of the other heavies get respect for being tough. Other crims fear them.

"But Knight doesn't really have a record of violence while in jail. I would actually say she hasn't even had a single jail charge since she's been inside. Even the guards respect her a bit. She's the boss, put it that way. She would be the boss of any pod."

Knight is housed in a section of Mulawa called "Willet". She is a Category 4 inmate - the highest and worst category a prisoner can be assigned - and always will be.

Advertisement

"She will never leave Mulawa," said Schembri.

"She'll always be classified high-risk. She will never go to a place like Emu Plains, where she can see trees or walk in a field.

"She can never have a job mowing lawns or where she can leave the jail.

"She will always be locked in a factory because everyone thinks she's a heartless, callous monster.

"But she has emotions. I've seen them. I've seen her cry. She is no monster, but she'll always be caged like one."

Green Is The New Black by James Phelps, Penguin Random House Australia, $34.99, is available online and at all good book shops.

Advertisement